|Bartkowicz in the midst of giving the ill-advised interview which destroyed everything for which he had worked so hard|
A Colorado man accused of running an illegal marijuana grow operation in his basement will likely appear later this week in federal court after a raid took place at his Highlands Ranch home.
The case of Chris Bartkowicz has ignited a battle between medical marijuana advocates and the U.S. Justice Department, reports Valerie Castro of CBS 4 Denver.
Jeffrey Sweetin, special agent in charge of the Denver office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, oversaw the Friday raid of Bartkowicz’s home and subsequent arrest of the licensed medical marijuana provider after Bartkowicz bragged on television about his profitable grow op.
|DEA Special Agent Jeffrey Sweetin: “The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody”|
Sweetin claimed Bartkowicz had a large-scale marijuana growing operation with more than 100 plants (above the threshold for stiff federal mandatory minimums) in the basement of his $600,000 home.
Sweetin professed concern that Bartkowicz’s home was close to Sand Creek Elementary School, and insisted he had every right to arrest Bartkowicz because marijuana — for any purpose — is still against federal law.
Attorney Rob Corry, a medical marijuana activist and lawyer for several medicinal cannabis clients, filed a complaint over the weekend saying the raid violated federal guidelines on medical marijuana. Corry called the raid a “scare tactic” aimed at the entire industry, and says Agent Sweetin abused his power.
“They are worried because there are legitimate, upstanding business people who go into this with a long-term view,” Corry said. “They want to help people for a long time. And if the federal government can on a whim come in and totally disrupt their business and destroy their investment and Sweetin says ‘We’ll seize the building and arrest everybody,’ I mean, that is a major risk,” Corry said.
|Attorney/activist Rob Corry called the DEA raid a “scare tactic”|
Sweetin claimed the amount of pot Bartkowicz was growing violated Colorado state law, thus his raid didn’t violate the stated Obama Administration policy of not targeting patients and providers who are obeying state medical marijuana laws.
“Obviously we’re not going after dispensaries,” Sweetin said Sunday. “I think Mr. Corry really just wants people to be afraid us us doing our job. My question would be: ‘Does anybody really believe we should have marijuana grows in houses next to elementary schools?'”
Sweetin earlier told the Denver Post that he has been gathering information for months on dispensary owners and their operations and clients.
“Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law,” Sweetin said. “The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody. They’re violating federal law; they’re at risk of arrest and imprisonment.”
Last year the Obama Administration told federal agents to back off medical marijuana patients and providers in states where medicinal cannabis is legal. Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden sent a memo advising that patients using medical marijuana in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws” not be targeted for arrest.
Sweetin claimed the memo deals with medical marijuana patients and small-scale growers, not commercial enterprises.
U.S. attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Bartkowicz would remain in custody through the holiday weekend before prosecutors decide Tuesday whether to file charges.